A lawsuit for wrongful death related to COVID-19 infections at Tyson Foods, the largest pork processing plant, accuses the meat processing giant of ordering employees to come to work while supervisors privately bet money on how much of they will become infected with the deadly coronavirus.
Isidro Fernandez’s family filed a lawsuit in August, saying Fernandez was exposed to the virus when he showed up for work at the Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa. Fernandez died in April from complications of COVID-1
Fernandez was one of at least five Waterloo employees who died from the virus. More than 1,000 workers – more than a third of the facility’s workforce – have become infected, according to the Black Hawk County Health Department. The lawsuit, filed in Black Hawk County, alleges that Tyson is guilty of “intentionally and recklessly neglecting workplace safety” and accuses the company of endangering employees by downplaying fears of viruses and covering up the outbreak to make them work.
As first reported by Iowa Capital Dispatch, the lawsuit was recently amended to include new charges against company and plant employees. One is that supervisors at the Waterloo plant have begun betting on how many workers will receive COVID-19.
The court said that in mid-April, plant manager Tom Hart organized a buyout, winning all the winners for supervisors and managers, to know how many employees at the plant would get positive results after being forced to report for work. According to Capital Dispatch’s review of the modified suit, the reported betting pool occurred when Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson visited the plant and said working conditions were “shaking”. [him] to the point. “
Another new allegation reports that top-level plant manager John Casey explicitly told supervisors to keep coming to work, even if they had symptoms of COVID-19, referring to the deadly virus as the “famous flu” and telling workers According to the case, Casey stopped a sick warden on their way to be tested and ordered them to return to work, saying, “You have to get the job done.” The managers reportedly allowed an employee who vomited on the production line, continue to work and return to work the next day, according to the suit.
Tyson Foods did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Earlier, the company said it denied the initial allegations, transferring the lawsuit to federal court, claiming it remained open because of President Donald Trump’s April order requiring plants to remain open to maintain meat supplies in the country.
The Tyson plant eventually closed after reports emerged that it was feeding a massive coronavirus epidemic in Waterloo. More than 180 infections were linked to the plant during the closure, according to the Black Hawk County Health Department. The plant employs 2,800 workers.
Poultry and meat processing workers usually work side by side, but public health experts recommend that people stay at least 6 feet away. The employees in these factories, including Fernandez, are also predominantly colored and immigrants who work hard for low pay. Workers report a higher injury rate than the rest of the private sector, and advocates say the dangers are almost always worse than the figures suggest.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines at the start of the pandemic, recommending meat processing companies set up physical barriers, impose social distancing and install more hand sanitation stations, among other steps. But the guidelines are not binding and are largely unenforceable.
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